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Clothes shoppers concerned more about price than environment, survey suggests

04 March 2022

Tom Price/Tearfund

Claire Gatesi, president of the Urukundu clothing co-operative in Rwanda, demonstrates some of the items made by the tailors at the project using unwanted scraps of fabric

Claire Gatesi, president of the Urukundu clothing co-operative in Rwanda, demonstrates some of the items made by the tailors at the project using unwa...

ENVIRONMENTAL concerns are far from the minds of most clothes shoppers, a new survey commissioned by the aid agency Tearfund suggests.

The online survey of 2314 UK adults was conducted by Savanta ComRes at the end of January as part of “the Great Fashion Fast” — a campaign from Tearfund to highlight the link between the fast-fashion industry and the climate crisis.

Of all respondents, about one quarter (23 per cent) said that care for the environment — reducing their carbon footprint or not adding to landfill — was their main motivation for buying fewer clothes.

Saving money and getting the most value out of existing clothes, however, were the top two reasons that most shoppers chose to buy fewer new clothes (54 and 43 per cent respectively). For more than one third (37 per cent) of respondents, minimising clutter was the main motivation; one quarter said that they had bought fewer clothes because there were fewer opportunities to go out and socialise since the pandemic restrictions and more widespread home working.

When buying new clothes, the top five considerations of respondents were the price and value for money (20 per cent), the design (17 per cent), durability (14 per cent), and brand (six per cent). For just four per cent of shoppers, ethical concerns and the carbon footprint of clothes were the main considerations.

Most young people (76 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds) said that emotional attachment was a main motivation for getting more use out of existing clothes; over-55s were less sentimental (58 per cent). Most respondents (57 per cent) owned clothes that they had never worn. More than two-thirds chose to donate old or no longer used clothes (68 per cent); one third (34 per cent) recycled; and about one quarter gave them to friends or family (24 per cent), or sold them (23 per cent).

Tearfund is encouraging supporters to wear only ten main items of clothing for the month of March. Its director of global advocacy and influencing, Dr Ruth Valerio, said: “Our throwaway attitude to clothes means we have helped make the fashion industry’s carbon footprint higher than that of shipping and aviation combined. This is contributing to the climate crisis, but we can all reduce our carbon footprints by making more considered purchases and loving what we’ve already got for longer.”


Interview: Laura Young, climate activist

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